Saturday, May 27, 2006
Richard’s On Richards
Vancouver, BC Canada
***Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
You know that phenomenon when a band is on the tip of everyone’s tongue—the “buzz” band? Well, the latest group to worm its way into the collective conscious is Australian stoner/trip/hard rock band, Wolfmother. The band’s self-titled debut album is a thirteen-track barnburner that owes much to the classic rock sounds of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath but also weaves in some white boy funk, bare-bones riffing a la The Kinks, trippy Doors-like interludes, melodic Beatles-esque choruses and loads of Iggy Pop attitude. Some may instantly write off Wolfmother as jumping on the garage rock bandwagon steered by The Strokes, The Hives and The White Stripes or even the over-the-top nonsense of The Darkness but after witnessing the band live, it is immediately apparent that Wolfmother is poised for more than the flash-in-the-pan status of those trend-followers whose 15 minutes are just about up.
Led by the vocals and six-string crunch of the afro-blessed Andrew Stockdale, Wolfmother is a three-piece monster who is just as capable of speed-bagging the listener with a barrage of dirty, feedback-laden riffs and four-on-the floor grooves as drawing out a dizzying trip through psychedelic, bong-hazed waters. The sold-out crowd blended hipsters and local celebrities with rock fans and a few others who defied categorization but everyone on hand was quick to find that Wolfmother’s performance was going to be talked about for some time.
Once the band hit the stage at 8:45PM (this was an early show as the venue was double-booked with Five Alarm Funk—“a 12-piece Afro-Funk juggernaut”—coming on afterwards), Stockdale, along with bassist/keyboardist Chris Ross and drummer Myles Heskett, absolutely tore through a ten-song, 75-minute set, that crackled with an electricity and energy that legends are made of. Put simply, Richard’s On Richards was THE place to be on this night. Loud does not even begin to put a tab on this show. Stockdale’s amps were turned to 11, Heskett pounded his drums like a madman and the thunderous rumble of Ross’s bass was eclipsed only by his serpentine keyboard lines. The rabid crowd was just as appreciative and enthusiastic, as several eager guys actually yanked Heskett into the upper deck at the end of the show.
Stockdale is clearly a frontman for the ages, sporting a six-inch afro and some mighty flashy duds. His mannerisms on stage are culled from every rock cliché of the past thirty years including the Marshall stack hump, drum riser leap/scissor kick combo and the timeless guitar-solo-while-writhing-around-on-your-back. The kicker, though, was when the band emerged from the gallows for the encore with Heskett sporting a giant cape and Stockdale in a skin-tight, black sequined jumpsuit with glittering stars. Showmen to the very end, indeed.
Musically, ten of the thirteen tracks from WOLFMOTHER were played and the band certainly picked the cream of the crop. The funk-a-delic bass line of set opener “Dimension” saw Stockdale’s voice crackle a bit at first but as the show wore on, he seemed to settle into the groove. The steamrolling chorus of “White Unicorn” heated things up and the “Riders On The Storm”-like middle section was a calling for all things leafy to be lit up but when the band let loose with the frenzied pace of the rollicking “Apple Tree,” things got really crazy. “Love Train”’s R&B-influenced percussion (it’s the song in the new Apple iTunes commercial) kept things moving while the grooving stomp of “Woman,” dedicated to Vancouver’s ladies, bares more than a passing resemblance to Led Zeppelin, both vocally as well as in the searing riffs. A brilliant combination of the stoner rock sludge of “Colossal” and the gargantuan arpeggios and feedback-dripping solo of “Joker & The Thief” closed the show with a spent Stockdale hurling his guitar into the crowd and throwing his mike stand to the floor.
All of this added up to what will surely be lauded as show-of-the-year on many local media outlets’ lists, my own included. For a band whose first foray on to North American shores was a handful of shows in 2005, Wolfmother is already headlining small clubs and their meteoric rise to the top of any rock publication worth their salt is something to behold. The band’s blistering live show is perfectly suited for a small club but I doubt they will be playing to such small crowds for much longer. Wolfmother is the modern version of a freeform jam band but with a hippy-dippy thunder to their songs that houses enough bombast and old-school rawk flourishes to appeal to the discerning fan as much as it does the masses. Wolfmother is not thinking-man’s music but for a return to good old fashioned guitar rock and a live spectacle, this band has it in the bag. Look for even bigger things from Wolfmother because this band has only just begun.
Where Eagles Have Been
Joker & The Thief
***Thanks to Jenny of House of Blues for the press pass.